Long before New London solo Yona Gregory even thought about going to law school, she was developing a healthy entrepreneurial spirit by flipping houses.
Gregory’s first foray into being in business for herself was at age 12, when she started selling jewelry at flea markets. By 23, she opened a health food restaurant in Virginia. At about the same time, she jumped into buying and renovating homes, and then selling them to make a profit.
It was only then, after starting what has become a successful real estate business, that she decided to go to law school.
“Law is a more intellectual aspect of having a business,” said Gregory, who in 2004 earned her law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law.
Since she started flipping houses, Gregory has bought and sold 10 homes and currently manages 25 properties. She devotes about five to 15 hours a week on her side business, depending on whether she is looking for a house to buy or actually in the renovation stage. The rest of her week is devoted to her real estate practice. The house-flipping business and the practice of law go “hand in hand,” she said.
“Some people just have that entrepreneurial bug,” she said. “If I can buy something and sell it for more that’s the most exciting process.”
Gregory said she started practicing real estate law because of her background flipping houses.
“I gravitated toward doing landlord law and real estate law because I have a background in it,” she said.
While buying and flipping properties can be stressful, Gregory said she enjoys the creative aspect of it.
“Each project is scary going into it,” she said. “It’s great to see the finished product, seeing it go from something in poor condition to something really beautiful. I enjoy the ‘hands on’ sort of experience that comes from taking a dilapidated home and making it nice again, and I think my clients appreciate that I have real experience as a landlord and property renovator so I can really empathize with what they go through.”
Gregory enjoys designing and finding materials for the homes. “Even if it’s not going to be super fancy, you want it to look high quality,” she said.
She does tiling, painting and cleaning herself. “Anything that does not require a license,” Gregory said.
“Sometimes the hardest part in property renovation is finding a property to buy,” Gregory said. “It can be labor intensive and involve dirty-work to a certain degree. It’s a business like anything else.”
Over the years she has learned a great deal. “I have completed quite a few properties so over the years I have learned a lot about building codes and various construction concepts which help me in determining a good house to purchase and what sort of work needs to be done,” she said. “I also handle all of the design and material getting for the properties and seem to be good at creating designs that appeal to buyers and aren’t very expensive. I like to focus on higher quality materials bought at discount and mimic trends that you see in magazines to make the properties more appealing rather than doing low-quality cheap stuff.”
Gregory said she was inspired by her father, whose properties she helped manage. “He certainly inspired me to do hands-on kind of work,” she said. “I spent a lot of time with him when I was younger.”
Gregory said her father, “a self-made real estate investor,” inspired her to invest in and renovate properties on her own.
John Troland of Niantic, a Realtor Gregory has worked with, said she is helpful to clients throughout the sale process, which can be “very emotional” because people are often making the biggest purchase of their lives.
“I work with all kinds of attorneys,” he said. “Basically, with her, she’s more hands-on.”•